Ubisoft’s campy cybercrime-o-rama Watch Dogs 2 arrived on Game Pass this week, and it’s worth a look. I’ve been playing Watch Dogs 2 lately myself, by coincidence, and I am enjoying its gang of goofballs who want to stick it to The Man by hacking the planet and forcing people to watch their meme videos. Good camp fun with a nice group of friends.
2016’s Watch Dogs 2 is very much a typical Ubisoft open-world game of its time, but recently I had a hankering for that. I wanted to visit a virtuacity, do a little video game tourism, drive around, collect some stuff, clean up some icons, you know? So as someone who still adores the 1995 movie Hackers, I turned to Watch Dogs 2, which also delights in brash young people fighting The Man by committing cybercrime—and trying to look cool while doing it.
So off you go, dispensing digital justice in San Francisco, Oakland, and Silicon Valley by infiltrating corporate facilities, finding servers, solving puzzles, playing with a remote-controlled car and drone, and hacking everything from security systems and autonomous bots to people’s phones and cars. It is often delightful to bypass complex security arrangements and armed guards by hacking a scissor lift to deliver your little car to a server. Lots of fun little puzzles around the world figuring out how to reach places and collectibles (often later realising I made it far more complex than necessary). It largely does what you would expect an Ubisoft open-world game from the tensies to do, which I usually find boring, but I like this because of the Hackers vibes.
Following the rubbish murderdad revenge story of Watch Underscore Dogs, the sequel swerved hard into colour and vibes as our man Marcus teams up with a cool young hacktivist collective to fight invasive surveillance software and the many cruel tendrils of data collection. They’re a good group of fun idiots, and do feel like friends (which is weirdly rare in games?). As they battle corruption, abusive data profiling, police brutality, and the megacorps, they try to gain more followers (and the distributed processing power of followers’ phones) by putting out propaganda videos, like Anonymous filtered through Zero Cool, Acid Burn, and Cereal Killer.
DedSec love skulls, loud colours, dithering, 50s horror movie posters, emojis, and trollface memes. Some find it cringe, as I’m told the kids say, but I think it’s fun camp. They’re wacky outcast kids (the best of whom always wears a studded leather face mask with an LED display for animated emoticon eyes) having fun while fighting The Man from their cool secret clubhouse beneath a board game shop. And having spent time in hackspaces, I do find parts of Watch Dogs 2 more grounded in reality than many might assume.
Watch Dogs 2 is still an Ubisoft open-world game. It is too long and far too repetitive, with too little tension across the storyline. But I’m enjoyed how I’ve been playing it, dipping in and out across two months, taking breaks long enough to largely forget that I’ve already done this mission seven times. It is an Ubisoft open-world game but it has a fun group of friends and some good silliness, and that counts for a lot. Really could do with a bicycle, though.
I don’t know why it offers Marcus guns. It’s weird that this game has guns. Not as weird as the one set in London having guns, but still weird. Mass murder seems very out of character for Marcus and the plucky bunch of goofs who want to fight The Man with memes. Mass murder definitely makes them villains. But you can choose not to, and get by just fine with the stun gun, melee knockouts, stealth, and hacking the planet (aside from the optional Dark Souls-esque multiplayer invasions, which Brendy would tell you are ruined by guns).
Watch Dogs 2 is available through Game Pass now, on PC, console, and cloud. Or you, like me, might well have already picked up a free copy or two during giveaways over the years then forgotten about it (check your Ubisoft Connect and Epic Games Store accounts).
As Graham already noted, Inside is coming to Game Pass next week. That’s a good’un.